BIOETHICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Coordinator: Romina Rekers

CLIMATE-HEALTH ADAPTATION STRATEGIES IN SOUTH AMERICA

Director: Romina Rekers

This project is supported by the Oxford-Johns Hopkins Global Infectious Disease Ethics Collaborative (GLIDE). GLIDE is funded by a Wellcome Humanities and Social Science Award.

Changes in climate affect vector pathogen-host relations and the range of infectious disease geography and seasonality. According to the LANCET report 2022 the basic reproduction number "increased by 11·5% for the transmission of dengue by Aedes aegypti and 12·0% for the transmission of dengue by Aedes albopictus; and 12·0% for the transmission of chikungunya by A albopictus, and 12·4% for the transmission of Zika by A aegypti compared with 1951-60, globally. During the same period, the length of the transmission season increased for all arboviruses by approximately 6%" (Romanello et al 2022, p.11). In the region of the Americas, specifically, "the number of suitable months in highland areas (≥1500 m above sea level) increased by 31·3%" (ibídem).

Among the key climate impacts and risks across the South America region, the last IPCC report alerts about the increased rate of epidemics of vector-borne diseases (2022, C.12). It also considers the "severe health effects and damages to health systems in countries with low adaptive capacity and where original endemicity is high and control status poor" (IPCC 2022, C.12:47). The report highlights that one of the main problems is that "higher temperatures increase the geographical range of vectors" (ibídem). Finally, it underlines that the increase in the rate of infections can lead to an increase in the incidence of more severe variants (ibídem).

These climate impacts and risks demand the development and implementation of climate-health adaptation strategies. Adaptation to climate change has the potential to improve the capacity of health systems to manage infectious disease outbreaks and other health emergencies (Romanello et al 2022). One of the main challenges in adapting to the adverse effects of climate change in South America is the lack of policy with climate-health linkages. This is not a problem exclusive to this region but globally. Using the data from the 2021 WHO Health and Climate Change Global Survey, the 2022 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change identifies that until 2021 only "48 (51%) of 95 countries reported having completed a climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessment, but these only strongly influenced resource allocation in nine countries" (idem, p.13). In addition, "(o)nly 18 reported that assessments strongly informed the development of health policies and programmes" (idem, p.14). Finally, "(o)nly about half of countries (49/95) reported having a national health and climate change plan in place. Of these countries, 62 (65%) indicated a moderate or lower level of implementation" (ibídem).

The lack of climate-health adaptation policies poses severe challenges in regions particularly affected by climate-driven health impacts and risks. In response to these challenges, for instance, "the Wellcome Trust Africa and Asia programmes (AAP) are embedded in the world's regions most affected by global heating, and most exposed to the impact of further climate disruptions" (Choisy et al. 2022). "The AAPs in Southeast Asia already have extensive research expertise on climate-sensitive infections including vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue, as well as diarrheal diseases, respiratory and novel emerging infections" (ibídem). South America lacks a robust and regional research agenda like the one developed by the AAPs. In this region, the government and scientific engagement in health and climate change is underdeveloped. The IPCC report 2022 identifies only these climate-health adaptation strategies in place in the region (IPCC 2022, C.12: 92):

1) Epidemic forecast tools.

2) Heat and cold early warning and alert systems.

3) Public dissemination of climate-health warnings.

4) Integrated climate-health surveillance.

5) Vulnerability and risk maps.

RESEARCH TEAM 

Director Dra. Romina Rekers

Postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Graz. Currently leading the project "A political conception of transitional justice", funded by the FWF. She is also a Research Associate in the project Global Health Justice: Duties of International Cooperation for Infectious Disease Control at the Oxford-Johns Hopkins Global Infectious Disease Ethics Collaborative (GLIDE). She serves as a mentor at the Fogarty International Center at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). She is a member of the editorial committee of the Latin American Journal of Political Philosophy. Her research was supported by grants from the Argentine Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW).


Contact: romina.rekers@uni-graz.at

Assistant Researcher Victoria Gerbaldo

Lawyer (National University of Córdoba), Outstanding Graduate and University Award 2016. She is working on the Master's Degree Thesis in Law and Argumentation (National University of Córdoba). Teaching Assistant in Constitutional Law. She participates in research groups on human rights, public health and philosophy of law. She has coordinated work teams related to accountability, transparency and strategic litigation.

Assistant Researcher Carlos Yabar

Biologist, Federico Villarreal National University (Peru). Master in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia (Peru). PhD in Biological Sciences, National University of San Marcos (Peru). Diploma in Bioethics, FLACSO (Argentina). Researcher and President of the Institutional Committee of Research Ethics of the National Institute of Health of Peru. Research professor at the San Martín de Porres University (Peru) and the National University of Trujillo (Peru). Reviewer of the Pan American Journal of Public Health since April 2015. Principal investigator and co-investigator of several research projects in Molecular Biology and Bioethics. He has 22 scientific publications and 24 recognitions.

Assistant Researcher Cintia Rodríguez Garat

She is a PhD candidate in Philosophy from the Faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences of the National University of La Plata. Master in Philosophy from the National University of Quilmes. She is a Fogarty International Center (FIC) - National Cancer Institute (NCI) Scholar from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO, Academic Headquarters of Argentina) of the Training Program in Research Ethics in the Master's in Bioethics. She has a Higher Degree Bioethics (FLACSO). She completed postgraduate studies in Political Science and Sociology (FLACSO); and she has a Higher Degree in Special Educational Needs, Inclusive Practices and Autism Spectrum Disorders (FLACSO).

Assistant Researcher Lucas Rekers

Climate policy adviser. Lead Auditor ISO IQNet 14001 and 50001. Environmental educator. Student of the Bachelor's Degree in Political Science at Universidad Tres de Febrero.

External Collaborators

Florencia Luna (FLACSO-CONICET, Argentina).

Euzebiusz Jamrozik (Ethox Centre, University of Oxford, UK).

Marcelo de Araujo (State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

Report on the Climate Emergency and the Right to Health submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR)

In a joint effort to address the climate emergency and its human rights impacts, our report entitled Protecting the Human Right to Health in the Climate Emergency: The Obligation of States to Adapt to Climate Change to Guarantee the Human Right to Health of their Residents has been published.
The report, developed in the framework of the "Request for an Advisory Opinion on Climate Emergency and Human Rights to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights from the Republic of Colombia and the Republic of Chile" (Advisory Opinion OC-1-2023), represents a significant contribution in the discussion on the intersection between climate change and the human right to health.
This document, based on scientific evidence, presents clear recommendations and concrete actions that could guide policy decisions and the implementation of measures to protect vulnerable communities from the health effects of climate change.

Download: bit.ly/DDHH-Salud-EmergenciaClimatica

OC-1-2023: https://climatecasechart.com/non-us-case/request-for-an-advisory-opinion-on-the-scope-of-the-state-obligations-for-responding-to-the-climate-emergency